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Off the Beaten Path to Ancient Malta’s Hypogeum

Picture it, the bones of some 7,000 people, dating back more than four millennia, buried some 40 feet below ground on a tiny island smack dab in the middle of the Mediterranean, just south of Sicily.  The Malta Hypogeum (Triq ic-Cimiterju, Paola, Malta PLA1116) is just one of several ancient sites worth visiting in this tiny island republic and it’s the world’s only known prehistoric underground temple.

You descend the Hypogeum’s three levels, stepping across precariously built metal bridges, your path lit by the dimmest of light to protect this Neolithic treasure.  You are up close and very in touch with the silence of the echoes of the past.

The Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum, commonly just called the Hypogeum, was discovered in 1902.  The complex of halls, chambers and passageways dates back to 4400 B.C. and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, one of several in Malta.  It reopened to visitors in May 2017 after undergoing a $1.1 million dollar restoration. Best to plan your visit in advance because of the site’s unique layout and sensitivity to conservation, only 10 people at a time are allowed into the Hypogeum.

The site is revered and guided tours sell out well in advance.  Heritage Malta now sells them online.  Since the opportunity to visit the Malta Hypogeum is so unique and strictly limited, the tickets are timed and non-refundable.